Why is my cactus plant turning yellow?

Cactus is one of the best indoor plants that are easy to grow and has low maintenance. People like it because it’s beautiful and brings a beautiful green color to their homes. However, in some instances, the green color turns yellow, and people ask themselves, “why is my cactus plant turning yellow.” 

Most people prefer plants that are low maintenance because they don’t take up much of their time and energy. Thus, it makes people lazy; they stop caring for the plant. If you pay attention to your cactus plant, you can catch the yellow coloring before it spreads. After a while, the plant wilts and dies. 

The earlier you identify the problem causing the color change, the earlier you can save your plant. We are here to help you identify the problem that is causing your cactus to turn yellow

cactus plant turning yellow

Why does my cactus turn yellow?

As much as you want to hear positive news, any yellow coloring on your plant means something has gone wrong. The things that can cause your plant to turn yellow include insufficient lighting, overwatering, lack of nutrients, insect infections, and poor quality soil. 

When you take your plant from the nursery, you will often be given instructions on treating it until it’s mature. But, you can forget and do wrong. I am not saying you are at fault, but you can avoid some of these problems if you take care of the plant. 

cactus plant turning yellow

 The main reasons For Your cactus Plant turning yellow

Let’s take a deep dive into the problems that are affecting your cactus plant. 

Lack of enough lighting

Lighting is an important requirement for plants to make their food. Also, light is a significant factor in photosynthesis, which makes the leaves turn green. When the plant receives little or more than it requires, it reacts to the changes. 

Cacti plant that receives too much lighting, the leaves start to burn, which can change color. You should know that the sun’s intensity changes depending on the season and can burn the plant’s leaves. Even high tolerant plants can’t survive in an area with harsh sunlight. They will change color to adapt or die. 

Once the plant starts to turn yellow, it receives too much sunlight. 

On the other hand, an indoor cacti plant will start looking for sunlight when it’s not receiving enough. You can notice this when the plant begins to grow into a tall, thin plant looking for a source of light. Typical cacti are not tall or skinny; thus, if this happens to your plant, it requires sunlight. 

For a plant that is not receiving enough light, place it on a window with direct sunlight. This way, it is exposed for a few hours during the day. Make sure the whole plant receives sunlight and not part of it. If it’s hard to place it on a window, you can take it outside the house for a few hours and then return it when the sun goes down. 

If you have an outdoor plant, and it is being burnt by the sun, move the pot to a shady area when the sun gets hots and return it when temperatures regulate to normal. 

In both circumstances, ensure you provide the required requirements for a few hours and then return it to its average temperature. Even though they want the sun, it’s not good if they undergo sudden changes. 

Overwatering and under-watering

Overwatering is more of a human error that comes with little experience. It comes hand in hand with under-watering. Overwatering and under-watering involve giving the plant more or little water, respectively. 

The Cactus is known for being a desert plant that can go for months without water, making people ignore it for a while without water. Start watering the plant by letting the soil dry between the watering. If you do that, the lack of water will harm the plant. 

On other occasions, when you have the plant in a garden with others and open the spray to water them, you can easily forget that you have cacti that don’t need too much water. Watering cacti like other plants can lead to problems such as the leaves turning yellow. 

When the plant has enough water, it swells, but it’s hard to notice if you don’t check it regularly. When the water levels increase, and it has more than it needs, the soil becomes wet, which prevents air circulation into the roots. As the roots lack enough air, they get stressed and rot. It, in turn, leads to leaves turning yellow due to wilting. 

To solve the problem of too much water, you need to drain excess water from the soil. That means having drainage holes on the pot. If the plant is affected, remove it from the soil, cut the rotten roots, repot the plant with fresh soil and a clean pot, and then let it sit without water for a week before you start watering. Once it grows, start watering as you leave the soil to dry before you water again.

How to know when to water your plants

cactus plant turning yellow

There are tests you can take to know if the plant has enough water or little amounts of water. Check them below;

Use your fingers

This test is used to determine soil dryness. When you stick your finger into the soil, it goes deep one or two inches from the top. If the soil is dry, you need to water the plant, but if it’s wet, wait until it’s dry.

Use a moisture meter.

A moisture meter is an electronic device used to measure the moisture content in the soil. The gadget is cheap and can be found in your local store. The gadget comes with instructions. 

To use it, you need to push it into the soil, and if the marker is dry, you can water it and vice versa. 

Lack of nutrients

You need enough nutrients to grow a healthy plant. If your plant doesn’t have enough nutrients, the roots will start to rot, which will cause the cactus leaves to turn yellow. 

If you inspect your roots and find the root rot is not caused by excess water, it’s due to insufficient nutrients. 

To solve this problem, you must change the soil to one with enough nutrients. The best soil to use is potting soil because it has other nutrients such as iron and calcium. 

Change in temperature

The temperature of a place can change suddenly, affecting various plants differently. This is because once a plant is used to a specific temperature, a sudden change causes it to stress out, turning yellow. 

For instance, if you live in an area with high temperatures during the day and low temperatures at night, this can cause the plant to have stress. To prevent this from happening, you can move the cactus to a new location after some time to make it adapt to the sudden temperature changes.  

You may overlook the temperature shift, but it affects the plant over time. If you leave it in one location over long periods, it will start to change color. If your plant is yellow and has been affected by temperature changes, you should change its location and wait for a while before you water or fertilize. You can water it after it has started to return to its green color. Watering before that can lead to root rot. 

Poor soil quality

The quality of soil has a big impact on how the plant will turn out. The biggest concern regarding soil is how well the soil drains off the water. The best soil will rain off excess water without leaving any stagnant at the top. 

If your pot has poor soil quality, buy new potting soil and replace it with a clean pot. Check the roots to see if they are affected and trim off any rot to leave fresh roots on the plant. Plant it in the new soil, and water it while leaving the soil to dry before you water again. 

Insect infestation

Insects are another cause of cacti turning yellow. Once these insects attack your plant, they start sucking off the nutrients, leaving the plant to dry. If you look at your plant, you can quickly notice insects on top of the plant. 

Some insects include mealy bugs, spider mites, slugs, and snails. These are just a few insects, and there are many that you should be worried about. However, the only advantage is that you can control them the same way. 

When they attack your plant, you can notice small spots on the leaves, or it starts to discolor. To remove them, spray an insecticide. Ensure that you follow insecticide instructions to avoid killing the plant.  

Can you make a cactus turn from yellow to green

For a cactus to turn from yellow to green, it will depend on why it turned yellow. First, if you damage your cactus under the scorching sun, it’s unlikely that it will turn green because the cells are dead. The best thing you can do is to cut off the dead matter, including the yellow cactus, and let it grow again. 

If it was affected by under-watering, and it started to wrinkle, then with proper care, the plant will begin to regain its color. Always ensure that when you water, the water is full in the pot until it starts to trickle out of the drainage holes. 

However, in most cases, the plant might not turn green again because the cells are already dead when it is yellow. When this happens, it’s better to cut off the yellow part of the plant to avoid spreading into other parts. This way, the plant can grow without any interference.   


One thing you should take away from this is that, even though plants require minimal maintenance, they are still plants, and from time to time, you need to check on them, trim dead plants, water the soil, and provide them with enough sunlight. 

The sooner you start taking care of your plant, the easier it will be to prevent it from turning yellow. You will never ask, “why is my cactus plant turning yellow” because you will not have anything to worry about. 

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